King hands military role to William during visit to Hampshire air base

The King officially handed over the role of Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps to the Prince of Wales during a visit to its Hampshire airfield.

Charles – who became the inaugural holder of the title 32 years ago – met with his eldest son in a rare joint official engagement at the Middle Wallop base on Monday afternoon to transfer the role.

The Army Air Corps is the Duke of Sussex’s old unit, in which he served as an Apache helicopter commander and co-pilot gunner during his second tour to Afghanistan in 2012.

The King’s decision to hand the role to William was seen as a blow to Harry when it was announced last year.

The King made the handover to the Prince of Wales in front of an Apache helicopter
The King made the handover to the Prince of Wales in front of an Apache helicopter (Kin Cheung/PA)

The King said it was a “great joy” to meet servicemen, their families and veterans at an earlier visit to the Army Flying Museum but added the handover was “tinged with great sadness”.

He said: “I do hope you’ll go from strength to strength in the future with the Prince of Wales as your new Colonel-in-Chief.

“The great thing is he’s a very good pilot indeed – so that’s encouraging.”

Photo from 2008 of the Prince of Wales on the flight deck of a helicopter during a visit to the Army Air Corps
Photo from 2008 of the Prince of Wales on the flight deck of a helicopter during a visit to the Army Air Corps (Kensington Palace/PA)

He unveiled a plaque commemorating an Apache AH Mk.1 going on display, the first of its kind to be installed at a UK museum.

The aircraft was one of four involved in a rescue mission during the Battle of Jugroom Fort in 2007.

The King said: “Let me just say what a great joy it is to be with you even briefly on this occasion but also it is tinged with great sadness after 32 years of knowing you all, admiring your many activities and achievements through the time that I’ve been lucky enough to be Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps.”

General Nick Barton, who took part in the rescue operation, said it was a “unique honour” to meet the King who served as an important “figurehead” for the soldiers.

Charles spoke to service personnel during his visit to the Army Aviation Centre
Charles spoke to service personnel during his visit to the Army Aviation Centre (Kin Cheung/PA)

Charles spoke to one veteran who had recently undergone chemotherapy for testicular cancer, discussing losing the sense of taste as a result of the treatment.

William embarked on his first engagement with the Army Air Corps after the King left, receiving a briefing on its work and inspecting training and operational aircraft as well as talking to soldiers.

Charles and William posed for photographs with members of the military during their visit
Charles and William posed for photographs with members of the military during their visit (Ben Birchall/PA)

He was presented with gifts on behalf of the corps – a tartan scarf for the prince, a wrap for his wife Kate and three wooden helicopter models for each of the couple’s children.

He then left the base in an Apache as part of a capability flight.

Kensington Palace posted two images of the prince during his military service on X, showing a young William in 1998 and 2009 – standing next to a helicopter in one picture and smiling at the controls in another.

“Time flies!” the caption read.

Monday’s visit comes just days after Harry travelled to the UK to mark 10 years of the Invictus Games, without meeting up with his father and brother.

The King trained with the RAF while in his second year at the University of Cambridge and was given his wings in August 1971.

William served in the Army with the Blues and Royals and was an RAF search and rescue pilot for three years at RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales.